Monday, July 30, 2012

Stupid Criminals Admit Crimes By Texting

"It's probably not a good idea to send a text message bragging about a robbery you just pulled."

Using a Mass Spam Attack to Hide a Cyberheist

Clever trick: "Cyberheist Smokescreen: Email, Phone, SMS Floods".

Here's the basic idea:
Many businesses request some kind of confirmation from their bank whenever high-dollar transfers are initiated. These confirmations may be sent via text message or email, or the business may ask their bank to call them to verify requested transfers. The attack that hit my inbox was part of an offering that crooks can hire to flood each medium of communication, thereby preventing a targeted business from ever receiving or finding alerts from their bank...
If you run a small business and one day find yourself on the receiving end of one of these email, SMS and/or phone floods, I’d advise you to find a mobile phone that isn’t being blocked and alert your financial institution to be especially vigilant for suspicious transactions.
(Via Bruce Schneier.)

English Phrases Used Only In India

"English phrases and terms commonly heard in India but rarely used elsewhere. (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Spider Web Forest

"Spider Web Forest Is Beautiful And Terrifying". (Via JRW.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Graffiti from Pompeii

Some examples of graffiti from Pompeii.

Times may change, but human nature does not. (Via Kottke.)

Bad Logic

Spot the fallacy: "There Is a 10% Chance You're Dreaming Right Now".

As one of my Facebook friends noted: "Since the author of the piece has only existed for 0.00000000028571% of the age of the universe, it is a statistical certainty that he wrote it before he was born!"

Snooping Power Strip

"The Power Strip That Lets You Snoop On An Entire Network"

The Physics of Firewalking

"The Physics of Firewalking"

Thursday, July 26, 2012

World’s First 3D-printed Gun

ExtremeTech: "The world's first 3D-printed gun".

This is fascinating from both a technical and legal perspective, especially given that it's the lower receiver that was printed. (This is the part that counts as the "firearm" for legal purposes.) All the other parts can be freely purchased without regulation.

As the article notes:
[T]his means that people without gun licenses — or people who have had their licenses revoked — could print their own lower receiver and build a complete, off-the-books gun. What a chilling thought. But hey, that's the ambivalent nature of technology, the great enabler...
I dare say many gun enthusiasts will find this liberating, not chilling.

Questions to consider:
1) Will this lead to calls for more regulation on currently-legal gun parts or on ammunition?

2) Will the government seek to criminalize possession of the data files necessary to print the critical components (comparable to criminalizing possession of, say, child pornography on one's hard drive)?

3) Or is the cat out of the bag?  ("Can't stop the signal!" as they would say in the Firefly universe.)
One noteworthy comment by member "phurba" on the AR15.com forum:
This is a hot topic on the 3D printer forums. Some people want to make plans for gun parts readily available, either to prove gun laws irrelevant or to circumvent them; while others feel that guns are icky and no such thing should happen.

Anyone who knows me here knows that I am hardly an advocate for gun control, however it is simple for an ineligible person to print a gun and buy the non-gun parts online. Is that something that could be regulated? Not really, unless you regulated the printers. The easiest way to control that is to stop the plans from being posted on public forums.
But let's be honest here: anyone who wants to circumvent these laws could go learn machining and mill their own AR receiver, and the same thing goes for learning CAD software and running a polymer printer. Does that mean that machinists classes and forums should be regulated? Certainly not. I really feel the same argument applied to 3D printers: basically, there's nothing that anyone can nor should do.
(Link via Ryan M.)

Potato Chip Can Innovation

This is really clever: "Bloom Chips Packaging Fixes the Pringles Can":
Bloom Chips stretches from a canister to a bowl in seconds once the paper sleeve that keeps it closed is removed.
(Click on images to see them full size.)

Bootable, Backup Mountain Lion Install Disk

"How to create a bootable, backup Mountain Lion install disk"

When Hyphenated Names Collide

"When Hyphen Boy Meets Hyphen Girl, Names Pile Up"

How Lego Almost Lost It

"How Lego Almost Lost It, Doing Everything Right"

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Artificial Jellyfish Built From Rat Cells

"Artificial jellyfish built from rat cells". (Via @SupaTrey.)

Iranian AC/DC Worm?

"Is a Computer Worm Causing Iranian Nuclear Facilities to Blast AC/DC's 'Thunderstruck' At Night?"

 If this story is true, it's bizarre -- and cool.

DIY Apps

"Make your own Angry Birds"

Print Out Any Drug

"The 'chemputer' that could print out any drug".  Cool technology, if it pans out.









Update: Derek Lowe offers some de-hyping.

Monday, July 23, 2012

When Geeks Go Bad

"Woman accuses Best Buy employee of copying, keeping her steamy photos"

Shakeup in Academic Journals

"Academic journals face a radical shake-up"

Clever Shark

"Watch a clever shark suck heaps of fish right out of a fisherman's net"

Physics of Staying Dry In The Rain

"Physicists tackle a crucial issue: How to stay dry in the rain"

The short version:
Basically, the best strategy for staying dry (or at least somewhat dry) is to run as fast as possible. Unless you’re really thin, in which case there may be a more optimal speed. And if you’ve got a tailwind behind you, then you should run exactly as fast as the wind at your back.
(Via Marginal Revolution.)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

[Off Topic] Civilian Response to Active Attackers

[Off topic]: If you ever find yourself in a mass-shooting incident, how can you safely respond?

My friend Ari Armstrong discusses this with his father Linn Armstrong (a firearms instructor here in Colorado) on what unarmed -- and armed -- civilians can do. For instance, unarmed civilians could throw their movie theater drinks and any available objects en masse at a shooter, thus disorienting him.

Here's the full blog post by Ari and the related video, "Civilian Responses to Active Attackers":


Friday, July 20, 2012

Olympic Trademark Dispute

"US Olympic Committee Forces 30 Year Old Philidelphia Gyro Restaraunt To Change Its Name".

I believe in proper legal protection for trademarks. But this seems over-the-top.

Celebrities Leaving Twitter

The NYT reports that celebrities are leaving Twitter.

Why? In a sentence, "[I]t's a public gaffe waiting to happen".

Lightning At 7,207 Frames Per Second

"Lightning captured at 7,207 images per second".

 
Lightning captured at 7,207 images per second from ZT Research on Vimeo.

New Lightest Material

"Scientists Produce the Lightest Solid Material":
[R]esearchers at the University of Kiel recently announced the creation of the lightest solid material ever made, based on a microtube manifestation of carbon. The scientists call their material aerographite, based on the substance's ephemeral quality. Aerographite weighs under 200 micrograms per cubic centimeter, which is a mere quarter of the weight of nickel microlattices—the previous record-holder for lightest solid. Despite its light weight, aerographite is endowed with significant strength based on its microtube lattice structure.
(Via E.P.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bionic Eye Update

"New surgery turns Colorado woman's damaged eye into a telescope". (Via Ari Armstrong.)


Most Starbucks?

"Which U.S. states have the most number of Starbucks?"

Colorado is #4!

Update: One astute reader notes that this is per capita.

How To Steer Sound Using Light

"How To Steer Sound Using Light"

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Batman

"10 Things You Didn't Know About Batman"

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Handcuff Locks Hacked with 3-D Printed Keys

"Hacker Opens High Security Handcuffs With 3D-Printed And Laser-Cut Keys"

Unfortunate Product Names

"11 Product Names That Mean Unfortunate Things in Other Languages"

The Annoying Thing About Self-Driving Cars

"The Annoying Thing About Self-Driving Cars: They Obey the Speed Limit".

Of course, this only means there will be thriving after-market for "jailbreaks" that let drivers exceed the speed limit.

How Times Have Changed: AOL CDs

QOTD from Reggie Fairchild, product manager for AOL 4.0:
When we launched AOL 4.0 in 1998, AOL used ALL of the world-wide CD production for several weeks. Think of that. Not a single music CD or Microsoft CD was produced during those weeks...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Firefly 10-Year Reunion Panel

"Watch the entire Firefly 10 year reunion panel, and try not to cry"

Yell-At-A-Bum Market

Yes, you can yell at a bum for 50 cents/minute.

How the US Accidentally Nuked Its Own Communications Satellite

"How the U.S. Accidentally Nuked Its Own Communications Satellite"

How Do Amnesic Patients Vote?

"How Do Amnesic Patients Vote?"

A serious question, although the jokes almost write themselves. (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

WalMart Toe Sucker

ProTip: If a man sucks your toe inside a Georgia WalMart, promises you'll get all of today's purchases free, then screams, "It tasted so good!", he's probably not really working for a TV show.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How To Run On Quicksand

"A striking experiment shows how you can run on quicksand"

Mangling The English Language

WSJ: "Teaching 'Taco Bell's Canon'"

Hey, that's one of my favorite songs! (Via Ari Armstrong.)

Pluto's Moons

The non-planet Pluto has 5 moons. (Via Ari Armstrong.)

Baseball Card Treasure Trove

"Baseball Card Treasure Trove Found In Ohio Attic"

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Relativistic Baseball

"What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?"

Short answer: A thermonuclear explosion.

Clever Bike Frame Carrer

"Bike Frame Handle Makes Carrying Bikes Easier"

Yet another clever Kickstarter idea.

First World Problems from the 90's

"14 First World Problems From the 90s". (Via Aeon Skoble.)

Robotic Hand Update

"Sophisticated Robotic Hand Also Doubles As A Human Exoskeleton". Click through to watch the video.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Calculator That Makes You Better At Math

Alex Knapp: "The Calculator That Makes You Better At Math"

Is It Snooping If Someone Didn't Log Out?

"Can you snoop if someone has forgotten to log out?"

As Evan Brown notes: "The answer to that question may depend on whether you knowingly exceed your authorization."

Up Close Tornado

I doubt I could sit in a parked car cheerfully chatting on my cell phone as a tornado came straight towards me:



(Via Cynical-C.)

Sane Takedown Request Tips From Popehat

Popehat: "How To Write A Takedown Request Without Running Afoul of the Streisand Effect"

Sunday, July 08, 2012

How Marketers Exploit Bad Math Skills

How marketers exploit bad math skills and cognitive biases. (Via Instapundit.)

Here's a related excellent 2010 interview with William Poundstone on the psychology of pricing.

One sample story from Poundstone:
I'm a jeweler and for years, we've set up the carts in the malls where we sell the jewelry. And the very first year that we did that, my wife and I, we set up the cart and we sold, you know, the silver chains, sterling silver chains. And we went all around the mall and checked the prices of all the silver chains, and we priced our chains lower than anyone else in the whole mall, and put them out on display.
And they sat, and they sat, and they sat. So we were getting closer to Christmas and worried, so we doubled the price on every chain, and we put a 50 percent off sign in front of it, and they sold like crazy.

Friday, July 06, 2012

[OFF TOPIC] Hsieh at Forbes: Is President Obama's Prostate Gland More Important Than Yours

[Off topic] Yesterday's Forbes.com published my latest health care OpEd, "Is President Obama's Prostate Gland More Important Than Yours?"

My theme is that you should have the same freedom to make your own medical decisions as President Obama.

Chinese Puzzle Balls

Chinese puzzle balls.

My parents have one in their home.  As a kid, I always wondered how it was made.  Now I know! (Click through to see videos as well.)

San Diego Fireworks

Oops: "San Diego Accidentally Set Off All Its Fourth Of July Fireworks at Once".

 Of course, there's a video:

Color Names

"How we gave colors names, and it messed with our brains"

The Leap Smear

How Google handles "leap seconds": The Leap Smear. (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Here's how other organizations and companies fared.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Higgs Boson Explained With Cartoon

Animated cartoon: "The Higgs Boson Explained"

 
The Higgs Boson Explained from PHD Comics on Vimeo.

Happy Independence Day!

Light blogging today, due to the holiday. Happy Independence Day! And stay safe!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Responding to Price Discrimination Software

"Online firms are getting better at calculating how much they can sting you for. Here's how to pay less."

Basically, if sellers are going to analyze your online behaviour to get you to pay a higher price, it's equally fair for you to alter your behaviour to induce them to offer a lower price.

First Private Deep Space Mission To Search For Earth-Destroying Asteroids

"First private deep space mission will search for Earth-destroying asteroids"

Your E-Book Is Reading You

"Your E-Book Is Reading You".

One tidbit from the article:
Barnes & Noble has determined, through analyzing Nook data, that nonfiction books tend to be read in fits and starts, while novels are generally read straight through, and that nonfiction books, particularly long ones, tend to get dropped earlier. Science-fiction, romance and crime-fiction fans often read more books more quickly than readers of literary fiction do, and finish most of the books they start. Readers of literary fiction quit books more often and tend skip around between books.
Those insights are already shaping the types of books that Barnes & Noble sells on its Nook...

X Is The New Y

Tweet of the day: "'X is the new Y' is the new 'back in my day'" (Kevin McAllister)
How to slice a bagel into two mathematically congruent interlinked halves:

Sunday, July 01, 2012

100 Riffs: A Brief History of Rock N' Roll

"Alex Chadwick plays 100 famous guitar riffs in one take giving you a chronological history of rock n' roll".

Good way to spend 12 minutes!